Alyssa’s Baptism

This month is a special month at Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church as we already have three different baptisms scheduled for February. This morning, was special as Alyssa was our first candidate to be baptized this month. Please enjoy the pictures and stories.

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Alyssa, on my left, was one of the first to sign up for my baptism class at Tampa Adventist Academy. She faithfully completed her baptism workbook, and actively participated by asking thoughtful questions about how to please God with our lives, and she was very satisfied when we found the answers in the Bible.

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Alyssa read a short testimony on why she was being baptized and what it meant to her. She wrote:

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Alyssa baptism

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“Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” Romans 6:3-4 NLT

One of the many things we learned in our baptism class, is what baptism means. When you go under the water you stop breathing for a second, since you don’t breathe water. This is symbolic of your  death. You are dying to self, and saying goodbye living life your own way. When you come up out of the water, you take a new breath, symbolizing the new life you are now living for Jesus.

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After church the church family congratulated and welcomed Alyssa to the church family.

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Here is Alyssa with her family. Alyssa was very happy about her Uncle Charlie (Top Center) coming all the way from California for her baptism. Charlie was a member at Tampa First before moving to California, and is very much in love with Jesus, and has encouraged others to make their decisions for Christ as well. In our baptism class, Alyssa was always talking about her Uncle Charlie and how she wanted to be baptized when he could be here. I can tell by the way Alyssa talks about him all the time, he is her hero and a very positive influence in her life. I am so happy when a young person has a real hero and role model to admire and emulate.

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All who follow Jesus will be fishers of men. Alyssa has the same passion for reaching others for Christ that her Uncle Charlie and the rest of her family have. Here she is being presented with her baptism certificate, which includes the fundamental beliefs of the seventh-day Adventist Church.

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Don’t let the sun set on your life, before you give all of your life to Jesus. Alyssa did not want to wait till she got older and give to Jesus just whatever was left over of her life. She gave all of her life to Jesus because He gave all of His life to her. Jesus has given His life for you too! He loves you! If you are thinking about giving your life to Jesus I would love to talk with you and help you prepare for baptism. If you are on the other side of the world I would still love to hear from you, and help you find a Bible based church on your side of the world. You can reach me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net

Grace – The Greatest Evidence There is a God

Sunset Bradenton

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves….Psalms 100:3

I entered the ICU in a Tampa Hospital, to pray with a family who was about to lose their mother. The mother was a Christian. The daughter was near believing, but I soon found out where her two sons stood. When the daughter announced I was here to pray, the two grown sons said, “no!” When the daughter said it was the mother’s wish, and I was going to pray, both sons stormed out of the room. As the youngest son went through the door, he shouted at me, “There is no God!” I kept silent, but wanted to ask him,”if there is no God, what are you running from?”

You can tell me I’m crazy, but I think a lot of people “don’t believe” in God, because they can’t manipulate Him to do exactly what they want, so they “hurt Him” by not believing in Him.   Some people tell me God is just some fairy tail made up to give people a make believe hope beyond the grave. Here is my question. If there is no God then why do we die? That’s right, why do we die if there is no God? Scientists do not know exactly why we die. They can’t explain death. It seems our cells should just keep on recreating themselves. Why do they stop? I mean if we just all happened to be here, and the universe is millions of years old, why aren’t we millions of years old too? I will tell you why. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death. In order to get an explanation for death you have to go to the creation story in Genesis 1-2 where God tells Adam and Eve they will die if the disobey.  Without the creation story you have no explanation for death. While people accuse me of making up God so I have a fantasy hope beyond the grave, fact is, the grave proves to me there is a God! There is no scientific explanation for death. The Creation story gives us the only explanation.

Many Christians try to disprove the big bang theory by saying, it takes more faith to believe “bang! There is life” than it does to believe there is God. While I fully believe in God, I did not think that was a good argument. To me, “bang there is God” is no more or less a coincidence than “bang there is life.” That is until it dawned on my feeble brain, with God there was no bang! He did not just happen. Fact is He never “happened” He has always existed! Do you see the difference? Nothing coincidental caused God to exist because He has always been. I can’t wrap my brain around it, but it makes sense and satisfies my mind that it makes more sense than something out of nowhere just causing a universe to exist. I can set off a million firecrackers and I will never get a universe out of any of them.

Okay, back to Christians just want a make believe hope beyond the grave. The accusation is we dreamed up this God to give us life beyond the grave. Fact is I can see man making up some form of god who rewards you for being good. That is legalism, and legalism is human nature, so sure it is in our nature to invent legalism and a God who rewards those who are good. But seriously folks, could any of us left on our own invent a god who rewards bad people? Could any of us dream up this god coming to die and give hope beyond the grave to sinners? In pagan religions man sacrifices himself to get the blessings of the god. Aztecs used to have a human sacrifice everyday just to get the so-called sun god to rise.  But Christianity offers something none of us could dream up. The God sacrifices Himself! And He sacrifices Himself to give life beyond the grave to sinners! Paul saw this contrast too in Romans 5:7-8, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul is making a contrast between Christianity and man- made religion. Mankind is legalistic by nature, so it is in our ability to invent a religion where someone may save a good person, but Christianity is unrivaled in that is presents a God who died to save bad people! Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to look logical to be believed. Truth can defy logic because it is truth regardless if it is logical or not. A God coming to die for bad people defies all human logic. It is not in the human psyche, therefore it is an idea out of this world. Man can invent a religion where man saves himself in his own strength by his own works, which is legalism. But Paul says we were saved without any strength of ourselves. Christianity defies legalism and human logic! The Sabbath also defies legalism. The Sabbath reminds us we are not saved by our works. We are saved by resting our faith in our Creator.

“The Sabbath was instituted in Eden, as a memorial of creation. It points men directly to the true God as the Maker of the heavens and the earth. Thus it stands as a mighty barrier against idolatry, atheism, and infidelity. Had the Sabbath been universally kept, not one of these evils could have gained a foot-hold in our world. There could not have been an infidel nor an idolater.  –Ellen White, Signs of the Times, September 14, 1882.

The Sabbath is a sign of creation. After all, you have the sun to mark a year, the moon to mark a month, and the earth’s rotation to mark a day, yet the only thing that marks a week is the Sabbath from the seven day creation story. Like death, the seven day week can only be explained by the creation story in Genesis 1-2.  More than that, the Sabbath is a sign of rest and grace as opposed to works and legalism. It is a sign we have a Creator. Not just any creator, but a loving Creator. None of the pagan man-made religions offer a loving god, but always an angry god which man must make sacrifices for. The Sabbath not only tells us we have a Creator, it tells us we have a Creator full of love and grace. Something mankind could never dream up.

I wish  those two young men would not have ran away that day from their mother’s ICU room. Maybe one day they will get tired of running and rest. When they do, I know a great resting place. In my Creator’s arms of love.

You can study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Glimpses of Grace; What If Moses Took A Spiritual Gifts Test?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I [am] not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.  And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?  Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.        And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand[of him whom thou wilt send.  And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. Exodus 4:10-14

Often we are prone to looking at our talents or spiritual gifts to figure out what we may do for the Lord. However, if Moses had taken a spiritual gifts test, he never would have found his calling. God called Moses and then qualified him. This is something important that we as individuals and a corporate church must be aware of. As individuals we are tempted to look at our talents and means and ask God for a work assignment which may accomplish based on already given resources. As a church we too often look at our budget and then organize an evangelism mission based on what we have in the bank. What we need to do is ask God for our task first! He will supply the resources.

It is in this life that we are to separate sin from us, through faith in the atoning blood of Christ. Our precious Saviour invites us to join ourselves to Him, to unite our weakness to His strength, our ignorance to His wisdom, our unworthiness to His merits. God’s providence is the school in which we are to learn the meekness and lowliness of Jesus. The Lord is ever setting before us, not the way we would choose, which seems easier and pleasanter to us, but the true aims of life. It rests with us to co-operate with the agencies which Heaven employs in the work of conforming our characters to the divine model. None can neglect or defer this work but at the most fearful peril to their souls.- Great Controversy, p. 623

When God gives us a mission He does not expect us to use our strength, wisdom and merits, but by His grace we are to use His own strength, wisdom and merits.

If you are in the Tampa Bay area I would like to invite you to the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, where we rely greatly upon the grace of God. If you are not in the area, you can find a grace filled church in your corner of the world here.

Glimpses of Grace; Joseph in Egypt

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.  Genesis 39:1-2

As I was reading this tonight, I thought of something I never had before. Up until Joseph’s promotion by the pharaoh, I pretty much considered Joseph a good natured victim. But now I wonder if he actually enjoyed living in Egypt even before the promotion. Let’s face it, I bet he enjoyed the distance from his brothers as much as they did. God is with Joseph and prospering him so why wouldn’t he be happy even as a slave? Even after Potiphar’s wife frames Joseph and sends him to prison God is still with him. “But the LORD was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that [were] in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer [of it]. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing [that was] under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and [that] which he did, the LORD made [it] to prosper.” Genesis 39:21-23

Seems to me, Joseph was a lot like his dad. In Genesis 31 his dad talked about how his boss had cheated him and changed his wages but was never able to hurt him. Doesn’t look like anything is really able to hurt Joseph either.  The move to Egypt, even though it may have been caused by his brother’s mean spirit, turned out to be a good move for Joseph.  Even when he was framed and put into prison things still continue to go well for him. I always pictured Joseph as being discouraged up until his promotion but maybe he was enjoying the whole ride! Looks like Joseph was able to bloom wherever he was planted or even re-planted. This is seen in the name Joseph gives his second son. “And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Genesis 41:52 Joseph was not one of those who say, “If only things were different. If only this or that had not have happened I could have prospered and been happy.” Joseph found joy and prosperity right in the land of his affliction.

 

While Jacob’s struggles with his boss were a reality, and Joseph’s clashes with his brothers and even Potiphar’s wife were real, both of them could claim true what Isaiah said years later, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.”  Isaiah 54:17

God’s grace was always with Jacob and Joseph and God wants His grace to follow you too. If you are in the Tampa Bay area, I would like to invite you to a grace filled church at Tampa First. If you are not in the area , you can find a grace filled church in your corner of the world here.

Glimpses of Our God; The Holiness of God

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.     And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.  Genesis 2:1-3

The Sabbath is an illustration on how the Lord makes us Holy. After all, Christianity and even more specifically, Seventh-day Adventism, is not so much about a day being holy as much as it is about a people being holy. The Sabbath did not makes itself holy. This seventh day was totally powerless and helpless. Yet God made the day holy. Likewise we can do nothing to make ourselves holy, yet God can make us holy just as He made the seventh day holy.  Thus, the Sabbath is all about grace. It is a sign that all of God’s work is complete and we can rest without trying to add anything to His work. No wonder Satan wants us to forget the Sabbath. The Sabbath points us to grace, the cross and the creating and re-creating power of God. If the Sabbath was about the law and works, Satan would care less if we kept it or not, as he is smart enough to know we are not saved by the law or works. Satan is at war with the Sabbath, because he knows it points to grace and the cross where we find salvation.

I can imagine what the first Sabbath may have been like.  Adam and Eve did not need a physical rest that first Sabbath. It’s not like they had a long week that week. But I can imagine God taking them through the garden, showing them all the wonderful things He had made, and the works He had done. On that first Sabbath, Adam and Eve realized, “It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves.” Four thousand years later, Jesus cries out on the cross, “It is finished” and completed all the work for our salvation. He rested in the grave on Sabbath. There was nothing mankind could add or needed to add to the works of Jesus. After the cross the Sabbath has double meaning. It is He who has made us and not we ourselves, and it is He who redeemed us and not we ourselves.

The works of Cain in his field could not add to the salvation God Himself worked out, by providing a Lamb. The builders at the Tower of Babel could not add to God’s salvation no matter how hard they worked. Thinking to change times and laws, and thinking to turning a work day into a Sabbath day will never add to salvation either. We cannot make ourselves holy, so how can we think we can make Sunday or any other day holy? Only God can make a day holy and only God can make a people holy. I find it odd that some have accused me of trying to be saved by my works by resting on the Sabbath. How can resting be considered work?

Every Sabbath I stand in awe of God’s works just like I imagine Adam and Eve did on that first Sabbath. I understand God made a day holy that was totally powerless to make itself holy. I understand that it is He who made me and not my own works or effort. I rest my faith in His amazing grace as He also redeemed me by His work on the cross and not by my works.  If God can make a day holy, He can make me holy too.

To study this week’s SS lesson click here.

To download the SS app to your phone click here.

For further study on the weekly Sabbath click here.

Glimpses of Grace; The Truth About John 3:16

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Last weekend, during the Broncos-Patriots playoff game, Focus on the Family ran a beautiful add where some cute kids recited John 3:16. I was so excited to see this add on national TV and was presented wonderfully! I do hope that people also understood in this verse that God is a God of love and will not be torturing sinners throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. No, the verse very clearly says the unbeliever will perish, not burn for all eternity.

To me the greatest lie that has ever been told about my heavenly Father is that He is a physco path who will torment you for all eternity if you don’t love Him back. I am thankful that He is a God of love. He gave His Son Jesus. He did not just offer Him to us. There is a difference. He gave, not offered. Jesus has been given to you and you must reject him now to get rid of Him! Please don’t reject Him. God also gave Him to us forever. He did not loan us His Son, He gave us His Son to be our Savior and advocate for all eternity!

For more on the truth about the unbeliever perishing instead of being tortured for all eternity please click here.

Glimpses of Grace; Closer Than Before We Fell

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.  Matthew 1:23

By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin. It was Satan’s purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen. In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.” John 3:16. He gave Him not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race. To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature. This is the pledge that God will fulfill His word. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder.” God has adopted human nature in the person of His Son, and has carried the same into the highest heaven. It is the “Son of man” who shares the throne of the universe. It is the “Son of man” whose name shall be called, “Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. The I AM is the Daysman between God and humanity, laying His hand upon both. He who is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” is not ashamed to call us brethren. Hebrews 7:26;  2:11. In Christ the family of earth and the family of heaven are bound together. Christ glorified is our brother. Heaven is enshrined in humanity, and humanity is enfolded in the bosom of Infinite Love. –Desire of Ages, p. 25